Name: The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town (那須町のこうやまき)
Type: Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)
Trunk Circumference: 5.4m
Age: 524 years
Location: 栃木県那須郡那須町芦野 (36° 59′ 11″N 140° 09′ 53″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-8-13
On a piece of high ground overlooking the neighbourhood of Ashino, there stands the remnants of the Ashino Clan’s encampment, known as Sakura-ga-jou (桜ヶ城), which these days is allegedly a public park, and is maintained. It certainly didn’t seem maintained when I was there…
As I was sitting in the parking lot with my windows down partially (so I wouldn’t have to waste fuel on the aircon), I started to hear a loud buzzing, and a “thunk thunk thunk” sound. Glancing around, I realized there was a Giant Asian Hornet trying to gain entry to the car. I quickly upped the windows and turned the aircon on, and then debated whether I should try to see this tree. I sat in the car for 20 minutes, I guess, relaying my situation on Twitter. I finally decided to move to a different, nearby, closer to the trail I needed to take, parking area and hope the suzumebachi didn’t follow me. Luckily, it didn’t.
The stairs up to the high ground were overgrown this day. Severely overgrown. I guess it’s better to come in fall, or in spring (there are lots of sakura trees around here, as you may expect given the name of the place).
After a reasonable climb, there’s a large, flat clearing. This is the remains of the outer citadel. On the northern edge of this clearing, the land rises again. Looking towards it and a little to the left, you can see the remains of the inner citadel. Over here is a fairly large fir tree. But if you look to the right, you can see what I, at least, came here for. The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town. Umbrella Pines are actually fairly unique. They’ve been around, virtually unchanged, for 230 million years. They have no close relatives still living today. It’s listed as a vulnerable species.
There may have been a way up to it, but I couldn’t find it, and being wary of a return of the suzumebachi, I made my visit brief.
I try to show you my Japan. Won’t you show me your Japan?